Some GOAT flies for sure. Photo by Alex Cerveniak

Hex-Mania

If Hexagenia limbata isn’t the GOAT of all bugs, it’s at least squarely in the conversation, beginning with its sheer size and density. “Nothing in flyfishing even comes close to the spinner fall,” says the legendary Kelly Galloup in Chris Santella’s book, The Hatch is On! “I don’t care how big a salmonfly or Mother’s Day caddis or Hendrickson hatch you’ve seen, it doesn’t compare in pure biomass.”

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That's not a mirage. Photo by Jim Klug

Sleeps With the Fishes

I was caught between two worlds: human and piscine. I had been welcomed into the school. I moved with them, as they moved. I observed their feeding habits, their societal structures. I was like a salt-crusted, Ichthyological Jane Goodall, except that my silverbacks weren’t gorillas. They were bonefish. Scores of them. Possibly hundreds. All around me, glimmering tails flapped like the banners of their clan—a clan of which I was now an adopted son.

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Some nice notes. Photo by Jim Klug

Taste Test

I wish I knew more about bourbon. All I really know is that I like the taste, and that there are some I enjoy more than others. This may be the result of growing up in Kentucky, where my friends and I were introduced to good bourbon at an early age. Had I grown up in Poland or Scotland or the Caribbean, perhaps I’d prefer vodka or Scotch or rum. But bourbon is my thing. The details don’t interest me, however. Percentages of various mashes, types of wood in the barrels, the aging process? I just don’t get it. From people with more discerning palettes, I’ll hear things like “vanilla overtones” or “notes of cherry and chocolate.” Here is part of an actual description I found on a website for one of my favorite Kentucky bourbons:

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Clyde Appreciation. Photo by Chad Hoffman

Clyde Pride

Clyde had been sitting in a barn outside of Gadsden, in West Etowah County, Alabama, for nearly six months, with a flat front tire and a massive gash in his gas tank. He wanted to rumble his Detroit muscles, but hadn’t done so for some time under my watch. I never developed any mechanical skills, but my friend Adam has worked on cars since his youth, tinkering with his grandfather in their garage in Decatur. He put on a new gas tank in a little more than an hour, performing what seemed to me a mannish miracle. Clyde was purring again, and my passion for flyfishing culture would be realized at the Fly Fishing Film Festival at Cahaba Brewing in Birmingham the following weekend.

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Photo by Corey Kruitbosch

Public Mistrust Doctrine

“The topic of stream access illustrates one of the most perplexing types of legal conflicts that can arise… Indeed, it is difficult to find a legal issue that is more tangled and uncertain.” —A Wildlife Primer (2009), by Eric Freyfogle and Dale Goble

Colorado’s river laws might be in trouble. Roger Hill, the octogenarian trying to fulfill his dream of legally wade-fishing the Arkansas River, was at the Colorado Court of Appeals on January 27 and got good news about his case—Hill v Warsewa. 

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Photo by Kendrick Chittock

Biggie Smalls

There was no doubt it was a steelhead. Until it wasn’t. The grab had been so jolting, the head shakes so violent, that no consideration was given to the fish being anything but a steelhead. Yet there at my feet, in six inches of water, lay a brown smallmouth of grotesque proportions. Pulsing and flexing, flaunting its outsized strength.

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Finding solitude in Appalachia

Fishing a Laurel Hell

In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself within a dark woods where the straight way was lost. —Dante Alighieri, The Inferno

In Appalachia, there’s no straight way to travel. Laurel hell grows thick, and the only way to navigate it is to put your feet in a streambed and follow every meander and oxbow of the creek.

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Bimini guide Ansil Saunders appreciating the Super Bowl I game ball

Ballin’ in Bimini

Mighty Waters, a wonderful movie released last year by Austin-based filmmaker Shannon Vandivier, tells the story of beloved Bimini-based guide and boat-builder Ansil Saunders, in particular how Saunders had taken Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. out for a peaceful day on Bahamian waters just four days before King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968. The fascinating story was part of the 2021 Fly Fishing Film Tour and was broadly shared with the public in early February by two of its sponsors, Simms and Costa.

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Closer. Photo by Adam Tavender

Glengarry Glen Mykiss

The setting is the dining room of a fishing lodge in remote northern B.C. It’s early morning on a gray, drizzly day during a very slow week. Levine, one of the anglers, is talking to the head guide before the rest of the camp has come in for breakfast.

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Photo by James Fuller

Rodney Noel Jarvis

Sitting on my fly-tying desk, on a shelf above the straggle chenille and holographic tinsel, is an 80-year-old Richard Wheatley fly tin. The edges of its aluminum lid, with that distinctive satin finish, are rubbed bright from the friction of bouncing about in a fly-vest pocket. It bears the inscription:

R.N. Jarvis

4, Short St.

Cambridge

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Roll Clyde

There are two primary fishing cultures in Alabama: 1) The esoteric and exceedingly idealistic group of anglers that enjoy flyfishing and eating greasy Jack’s biscuits before a fishing trip. 2) Ricky-Bobby types who fish with junk baits. Needless to say, tournament pros burning up the interstates and roaring across impoundments with their 250-horse motors vastly outnumber those with “tippet” on their shopping list.

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Clyde Returns

Memorial Weekend is typically a time to avoid fishing. But Clyde opens doors. And gates, with bass ponds behind them. I’m not a private-water-with-pellet-fed-trout guy, but access to an un-public largemouth lake in Tennessee? That’s another matter.

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Photo by Kurt Budliger

Kings

Let this be a warning to you and to me and to all the other salmon killers out there; to the moochers and trollers and dam builders; the seiners and gillnetters; sushi chefs and leach mines; treaty breakers, billy clubs, old-growth bulldozers, and an ocean of plastic; to fillet knives, fish farms, and this ever-warming world, let this be a warning: These fish will outlast you.

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Jacklin's Fly Shop in March 2021. Photo by Beau Davis

Jacklin’s Fly Shop-Since 1974

“Look at that baby!” Bob Jacklin exclaims as the foamy waters of Montana’s Madison River churn steadily around him. Elegantly draped out of the net he’s holding is the tail of a now-famous 30-inch brown trout—a fish that Jacklin had caught before. “You talk about a fish—that is a big boy!”

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JUST OUT CATCHING LAS VEGAS LUNKERS.

Flyfishing Sin City

I thought I was still buzzed from the night before when I first saw what appeared to be a person lounging in a yellow pool-floatie on the water. “Only in Vegas,” I thought. Some drunk idiot ends up using Lake Bellagio as his personal swimming pool. But looking closer, I could see that the person was a man moving his arm back and forth a few times before bringing it to rest. “Is he casting?”

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Photo Courtesy Rep. Simpson's Office. Idaho's 2nd District G.O.P. Rep. Mike Simpson, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Stanley-to-Redfish Lake Trail. 

The Bold Effort. An Idaho Congressman shares his thoughts.

In April 2019, Congressman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, gave a somewhat stunning keynote address at an environmental conference hosted by Boise State’s Andrus Center for Public Policy. His comments were thoughtful, educated, and encouraging. But mostly, they were surprising, particularly his thoughts about what might be necessary to save Idaho salmon. Rep. Simpson and I discussed the topic in mid-December, and his quotes below come from his keynote and our conversation. Can Idaho salmon truly be saved? No one knows. But the Congressman has been down a similarly daunting path. In 2015, Mr. Simpson’s 15-year effort to broker a seemingly impossible deal resulted in the creation of Idaho’s Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness. (Which Mark Menlove covered in his 2014 feature, “A Fisherman’s Monument.”) If wild salmon and steelhead can indeed be saved, then Rep. Simpson is providing these essential fish the best shot they’ve had in decades.

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Photo by Kurt Budliger. The deeper colors of a seasoned grayling.

Ingrid. One woman leaves an oversized impression in Alaska.

I think that Ingrid would want you to know—as she stands in her waders, stands by her weir, looking down at a dark mass of grayling that were trapped in the night—that there was a time when no one would’ve thought fish would ever need to be counted. But she’d also want you to know that these don’t have to be the last wild days. She would want you to know that not everything has been lost, and that there is still the hope of unknown waters.

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Photo by Josh Idol

Silver Lining Kings. Long walks on the beach in Southeast Florida.

My first tarpon on a fly was a stout, laid-up fish that ate my worm and broke me off an hour later. I was a teenager at the time, and fortunate to have a father who took me on an annual spring trip to the Keys. But as I grew older and started achieving some success on the bow, my focus shifted to permit. Like many permit anglers, my trips often ended with a long flight home, followed by a long-winded explanation to my wife about how I could spend three days fishing, catch nothing, yet still feel the trip was “a step in the right direction.” At the height of my addiction, I was focusing more on the seconds ticking away on my watch than I was on scanning the water. I’d lost the mental game before even stepping on the skiff.

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Commodities and Steelhead. An imperative shift on the Olympic Peninsula.

Wild Steelhead are not corn, wheat, or cattle. They are not oranges, apples, or anything that we can control with expected specific outcomes and pounds delivered to market. Put them in a box and they will swim right out of it.
Even among anadromous fish, steelhead are the least predictable of any salmonid swimming the North Pacific. They are never a species of multitude, like Kings, Coho, or even Pinks, that come home in a rush of biological delivery to the rivers spanning the West Coast. They cruise along the edges, arriving to their natal rivers in fits and spurts, with dozens of life histories across each watershed. In short, there were never that many steelhead to begin with.

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Steelheading in the late 90s, before gloves were invented. Photo: Forrest Arakawa

Thanksgiving Fireball. Redemption on the Babine.

The whole trip was Forrest’s dumb idea. But for Forrest, enthusiasm overcomes all obstacles. In his world, “Rad” is always capitalized. As in, “Dude! It’ll be so Rad to go fishing right now!” But Smithers over Thanksgiving? Not Canadian Thanksgiving, mind you—on October 12, a perfectly reasonable time to be fishing in northern British Columbia—but American Thanksgiving, a month and a half later.

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Redfish friendly habitat in Northeast Florida. Photo: Alex Coleman

North Florida Floodtides. Charleston isn’t the only tailing zone.

If you’re unfamiliar with flood-tide fishing, imagine your grassy front yard that your kid was supposed to cut three weeks ago but hasn’t. In the West this might attract crickets or hoppers, but in the coastal Southeast, when the right moons and weather combine, the grass floods, attracting snails. The snails attract fiddler crabs, the crabs attract redfish, and the redfish attract us.

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Proctor's Snake River Cutty from Wyoming's Hoback River.

Brianna Proctor. Finding new water, the hard way

For Brianna Proctor—a lead helicopter crewmember based in Swan Valley, Idaho—learning about and working near rivers all over the country has become a major benefit of her firefighting career. She’s been a wildland firefighter for 15 years, working primarily in the air attack and helicopter realm as a member of what’s called a “helitack” crew—a group that works alongside helicopters to facilitate water drops, fire recons, and the shuttling of crews into remote areas of the fire.

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Photos by Ray Montoya

Stranded on Socotra

On March 13, 60-year-old retired schoolteacher Ray Montoya arrived on the Arabian Archipelago of Socotra, intent on landing what is thought to be the first permit on a fly from the war-torn country of Yemen. Three weeks later, the talented fly-tyer, photographer, artist, and angler was still there, grounded like the rest of us. But Montoya is not like the rest of us. A Navy veteran, he grew up in a third-generation military family, bouncing around the U.S. as a kid. He became a teacher after college, and in the late ’90s began teaching internationally with his wife, Kerry.

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John Prine hanging out at Georgia State College, before a live interview on WRAS-FM. (Photo by Tom Hill/WireImage)

The Quarantine and John Prine

Got the news today. The troubadour of my soul’s playlist, the gravel-voiced poet of so many of our flyfishing adventures, John Prine, was hooked up to a ventilator. He didn’t survive. I keep waiting for one of the dearly departed to claw themselves…

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Photo by Austin Coit

Tarpon, A Mexican Intoduction

Megalops atlanticus. The name belongs more to a creature in an ’80s horror film than a fish out roaming the flats. They are so big and powerful it is hard to imagine them existing in real life. I saw Flip Pallot and Jose Wejebe cross paths with these monsters…

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Photo: Hansi Johnson

March Madness – Finding calm amid coronavirus anxiety

It was a brisk and beautiful morning, the sky cloudless, the sunlight sharp. It was the kind of day that under different circumstances would have you looking forward to the coming seasons of warmth and splendor and carefree fun. We began packing the car. I’ll never forget the looks on some of my neighbors’ faces as I took the bags of groceries—canned goods, pasta, rice and yes, even some toilet paper—to the car. Those faces betrayed thoughts. Wait, should I be doing the same thing? Fear may be the only thing more contagious than this virus.

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Photo by Jim Klug

The Roadless Rule in America’s Salmon Forest

“Judge Sharon Gleason, U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Alaska, ruled last week that the Forest Service violated federal law by approving future logging in the 16.7 million-acre Tongass National Forest.”

I pay my bills here in Southeast Alaska, at least in part, by having short and intense conversations on airplanes. I help wedge wadered clients from all over the globe into DeHavilland Beavers, then drop in on some of the planet’s most spectacular temperate rainforest

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A Wet World that Burns

Spending more time at home lately? Fancy yourself a writer? Could you use $2,500? Then consider entering a submission for the 2020 Robert Traver Fly Fishing Award, sponsored by the John D. Voelker Foundation and the American Museum of Fly Fishing (AMFF). Here is the link to the awards page: https://www.voelkerfoundation.com/traveraward/  and below is the winning submission from 2019—”A Wet World that Burns” by Jimmy Watts (photos by Carson Artac), which first appeared in the summer 2018 issue of The Drake

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Photo: Nick Price

Mag Bay Magic

Survive, is what an angler does the first few minutes after hooking a striped marlin. My friend Nick and I shout with joy, accompanied by excited words in Spanish from our new friends. We watch a reel getting emptied and watch the fish leap, flip, and dive. Thirty minutes later and it’s the post-release chatter,…

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Photo: Tosh Brown

American Greed, Inc.

riter and historian David T. Courtwright calls them “limbic capitalists”—people or companies that target our limbic system, the part of our brains primarily responsible for emotion, especially as it relates to pleasure, motivation, and survival. Courtwright is author of The Age of Addiction: How Bad Habits Became Big Business. “Biological evolution shaped the limbic system,…

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Photo: Nate Koenigsknecht

Can’t We Let Them Live?

As a lifetime Oregon resident, angler, and guide, I spend 40-60 days a year on the rivers of the Southern Oregon coast. I interact with anglers that use all types of methods, and every one of them I’ve talked to has noticed a significant decline in encounters with wild steelhead. How can this be explained?…

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Photo: Corey Kruitbosch

The Winter Writhe

It’s late February and I stumble out the door to grab another beer kept cold by winter’s free refrigeration. If it was anything but the high-octane variety, it would’ve frozen from a lack of alcohol. I pop the cap, drain it, and unzip my pants, melting as much snow as possible when I piss—anything to…

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Photo: Josh England

Holding Over

Every year, a small number of striped bass winter over in the bays, marshes, and salt ponds of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We call them “holdovers.” They’re not big, they can be tough to find, and by the middle of the winter, they look a little haggard. Their flanks, once polished a gleaming silver by a…

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Video Dayz: The Mend

“The Mend” is a heartfelt story about a promising high-school football coach, who’s star player is also his son. After losing the championship game to crosstown rivals, a rift forms in the family dynamic. Years later the father-son duo, with the help of a river, find a way to reconnect. Directed by Broc J. Isabelle.…

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11th Annual Chica de Mayo

Chica de Mayo has proven to be a massively successful women’s flyfishing fiesta. And, if you’re anywhere near Bozeman on Saturday, May 11, be sure to drop by The River’s Edge West and SIMMS Fishing Products to see what’s new. “This year, we’re expanding our educational offerings and also hosting an event kick off social/trunk…

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2019 Traver Writing Award

The John D. Voelker Foundation and the American Museum of Fly Fishing are now accepting submissions for the 2019 Robert Traver Flyfishing Writing Award. The author of the winning essay will pocket $2,500. (Enough beer money to see you through run off. Maybe.) The Traver Award was created in 1994 by Nick Lyons and the…

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“Fish or Die” Lives

We’ve followed Chris Owens, Brian Jill, Thad Robinson and Jay Johnson onscreen, navigating gnarly fishing terrain and living to tell about it, for years. This month the well-vaccinated foursome brings the “Fish or Die” party to Animal Planet. “They are not survival experts, but these close friends are determined to work together and boldly follow…

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